It is hugely significant that HR professionals, the architects and guardians
of anti-bullying policies, are often victims of bullies themselves.
Many organisations work hard to gain the loyalty and commitment of their HR
staff, but it is all too easy to misuse power or position to exploit that
In organisations where loyalty is synonymous with discipline and obeying
orders, the possibilities for bullying are limitless. This type of exploitation
of HR is so endemic that we don’t question it.
Not only do HR staff often witness bullying, but
they have to pick up the pieces if their distraught colleagues come to them for
advice or support.
If they become embroiled in the fray, they may risk their own position in
the organisation; if they don’t get involved, they may feel they stood by and did
nothing – the equivalent of watching a mugging on a daily basis. For one of the
things that is stolen by bullying is self-respect.
Meanwhile questions will be asked as to where loyalties lie and an abuse of
either power or position will be used to persuade support for one side or the
The plea to know how best to deal with bullying has led to the development
of a whole area of writing up policy and procedures, usually by one or two
individuals within HR, with or without expert advice. However, policies alone
do not stop bullying. Words and written guidelines can present a veneer of
responsibility that stops nothing, but creates the illusion that the
organisation has tackled the problem. I am convinced that concerns about
bullying then become lodged not in people’s minds, but solely in the written
word somewhere else.
Policies must be written with regional, cultural and organisation
differences taken into consideration, consulting with different parts of the
business and the staff within them.
All this must be backed by designated groups within HR responsible for their
sensitive dissemination and maintenance. Specific written guides should then be
produced for managers and investigators, followed by cascade awareness training
programmes developed and delivered to all staff in an organisation.
By Lyn Witheridge, chief executive of
anti-bullying charity The Andrea Adams Trust